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Cryptocurrency expert admits aiding North Korea

China iTech Ghana
Monday, October 18, 2021 | views Last Updated 2021-10-18T17:51:00Z
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A cryptocurrency expert who gave a talk at a Pyongyang conference has admitted conspiring to help North Korea evade sanctions.


Virgil Griffith, a former senior researcher with the Ethereum Foundation, pleaded guilty on Monday.


The US Department of Justice said he had "jeopardised the national security of the United States" by undermining sanctions.


His lawyer told the Wall Street Journal Griffith was "sincerely remorseful."


Launder money

In April 2019, Griffith attended the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, with about 100 other attendees.


He had applied for permission to travel to North Korea - but when this was refused, he went anyway, reaching the country via China.


Seven months later, Griffith, who had been living in Singapore, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport.


Prosecutors said Griffith, had given a presentation on blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, with topics approved by North Korean officials, and "participated in discussions regarding using cryptocurrency technologies to evade sanctions and launder money".


'Personal trip'

The title of the presentation was Blockchain and Peace.


Blockchain is the technology underpinning cryptrocurrencies, in effect a giant shared ledger of transactions.


After Griffith's arrest, Ethereum cryptocurrency co-founder Vitalik Buterin circulated a petition in support of him, which attracted only modest support.


In the Twitter thread, Mr Buterin said the foundation had not supported Griffith's activities in North Korea, saying: "It was Virgil's personal trip, that many counselled against".

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